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Public Schools Threaten Parents With Jail Time for Truant Kids

Those tykes are worth big bucks to institutional educators, so if you don't hand 'em over, you might be slapped with fines or even incarceration.

Orange County Public Schools/FacebookOrange County Public Schools/FacebookWhy should you faithfully deliver your children to the government schools, missing no more than a bare handful of days? Because those tykes are worth big bucks to institutional educators, so if you don't hand 'em over, you might be slapped with fines or jail time.

That's an accurate interpretation of a letter sent out to parents for years by Orange County, California, District Attorney Tony Rauckauckas. But don't take my word for it—read it for yourself. And keep in mind that this represents a national problem of schools claiming greater authority over kids then their parents, whether because they think they know better or just because the kids are so valuable.

One of the main components of the Orange County Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership (OC-GRIP) "focuses on student school attendance," states Rauckauckas' letter.

Law enforcement, Deputy District Attorneys and District Attorney investigators, along with school staff monitor school attendance, tardies and truancies and conduct Truancy Sweeps and Curfew Sweeps throughout the school year. Students are not allowed to have more than 3 unexcused absences or excessive tardies. The 4th unexcused absence rises to the level of a crime and as the parent or guardian you can be prosecuted and charged with a crime.

That's … pretty tough stuff. Who would threaten parents this way? And why?

"The Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) is in the process of sending out the attached letter to all the schools benefitting from the OC GRIP program, as we have done for the past 11 years," Orange County DA's Office spokesperson Michelle Van Der Linden told me by email. "In addition to academics, social, and emotional relationships also deteriorate when a student is absent. When children miss school they are more likely to become victims of gang crime or fall into gang activity."

Kids not in class might be recruited for gangs, but they certainly cause government schools to lose out on the bounty.

"One of the many benefits that come with improved attendance is increased school funding through the Average Daily Attendance funding from the state," the letter notes.

As the California Legislative Analyst's Office points out, "the department uses attendance data to allocate state funding for various programs," and accordingly requires school districts to report attendance three times per year. If enough warm bodies are on hand, the schools get a full take of the money. If not… Well, an "increase in the number of students who were chronically absent cost the district $45 million in state revenue that year," The74, an education news site, reported of the LA Unified School District in 2017. "During the 2009-2010 term, traditional public schools in San Diego County lost out on at least $102 million in state funding because of absences," KPBS noted in 2011.

Understandably, California school districts want to pen those kids so they can be properly tallied and cashed-in. But maybe not educated. It's not always clear who would teach those kids if they do show up.

"Nearly one out of every four teachers in San Diego County miss 10 or more school days per year, a threshold that triggers [the chronically absent] label," the San Diego Union-Tribune found in 2016. "On the other hand, fewer than one in 10 students were labeled chronically absent in the same data set, which covers the 2013-14 school year."

It might seem that locations other than government buildings have a little educational potential of their own—especially when the government buildings are depopulated by teachers taking advantage of the generous "sick or personal days built into their union contracts." While I don't remember which of my childhood vacations involved promises to the school that my sister and I would make up our work, I know some of them did. There was really no question in my parents' mind that tours of Aztec ruins and the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam were more enriching than sitting in classrooms. We weren't alone in that conceit, since other kids frequently disappeared for the same reason.

But "taking a student out of school to go on a family vacation can also be considered an unexcused absence," scolds DA Rackauckas. "I strongly discourage missing school for vacations during regular school days."

So now government officials are in the business of threatening parents with criminal charges if they structure their calendars to fit family needs rather than those of the state.

Those threats aren't empty either. News stories about prosecutions abound, and Rackauckas boasted in 2015 that "more than 200 families were part of the GRIP truancy sweeps last year and all but six of those families had perfect attendance for the remainder of the school year. That meant up to $35,000 of increased funding for these schools."

Nor is Orange County alone—districts across the state wield the same hammer. "A student only needs to be 30 minutes late for school three times to be labeled a truant and have a letter sent home threatening their parents with prosecution," the Sacramento Bee reported last year. "Being tagged a chronic truant–after missing 10 percent or more of the school year–could mean up to a $2,000 fine and jail time for parents or the student."

California seems especially egregious in this regard, but iron-fisted threats to surrender your kids—or else, feature elsewhere, too. Jacksonville, Florida, aggressively targets parents of truant kids, with widely publicized arrests and up to 60 days of jail time in store.

Using cops and courts as your lever for extracting compliance from families has inherent risks, and inevitable results. Eileen DiNino died in her cell at Pennsylvania's Berks County Prison in 2014 after being sentenced "because she owed the local courts more than $2,000 in fines and fees related to the truancy of two of her teenage sons."

Photo Credit: Orange County Public Schools/Facebook

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  • SQRLSY One||

    From the bottom of the given link at http://www.themarshallproject......e-absences ...

    "Most of our students involved in this truancy trap are moderate to low income. How is their criminalization—these fees—pulling them out?" White said. "I know this sounds odd that a Republican is saying this, but in many instances, are we criminalizing being poor? People gloss over this, but in some cases, students have to stay home to take care of siblings. This stuff really happens."

    Government Almighty has a giant hammer, so EVERYTHING looks like a nail! Nails-jails will fix EVERYTHING!!!

  • SQRLSY One||

    Also... If I can be punished for the doings of my child, why can't Big Daddy-Emperor Trumpster-to-the-Dumpster be punished for MY doings, since Der TrumfenFuhrer seems to think that He is serving "In Loco Parentis" to me as His child (along with the rest of us)?

    Punishing one person for the doings of another is flat-out mangling of basic concepts of justice, period!!!

  • Longtobefree||

    Read the article.
    This is about money, not justice.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Yes, you are clearly correct! And Government Almighty, in ever-greedy pursuit of the Almighty Dollar, shits all over justice, big-time!!!

  • buybuydandavis||

    I'm a little torn on this.

    A little strict liability for your children could work wonders all the way around.

    Your kid. Your responsibility.

  • TLBD||

    I'm a little torn on this.

    Liability to the state? Think you need to think it through a little harder.

  • sarcasmic||

    Responsibility to turn your children over to a minimum security prison or go to one yourself?

  • Cathy L||

    They could withdraw the kids from public school. This is on the parents.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    They dont get to withdraw those taxes to pay for schools though.

  • DiegoF||

    That is an interesting issue, but I don't really see the relevance here. Children can present some of the more subtle and difficult issues for libertarians to contemplate (unless you're Rothbard), but this is not one of them. Seems very cut and dry: This should very, very clearly not be happening to these parents.

  • Chute_Me||

    We should applaud the OCDA for his honesty. One benefit of extreme Statism these days is its penchant for openness. At least we no longer have to suffer the spin.

  • Real Books||

    "Nearly one out of every four teachers in San Diego County miss 10 or more school days per year, a threshold that triggers [the chronically absent] label"

    So who goes to jail for that? The teacher? The principal? The superintendent? Members of the school board?

    They probably can't even fire the teacher. They're unionized, you know.

    Maybe the students and their parents should unionize.

  • TLBD||

    If I got even threatened with this crap I'd pull my kid out and homeschool them, or move.

    But I'm upper middle class.

    As the article points out, this crap hurts poor people and poor kids. The state with the highest poverty in the country shows again its blatant hypocrisy.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It's really all the utility poor kids have to them.

  • Jerryskids||

    It's fine for you to be so cavalier with the school funding, but those diversity office administrators need their paychecks, too.

  • sarcasmic||

    schools claiming greater authority over kids then their parents

    That's it. I'm calling the Grammar Police.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    When they don't bother hiding their true motives, that's when you know they think there's nothing you can do to stop it.

  • Longtobefree||

    Cute.
    It is illegal to discipline your kids; you get arrested for 'mental abuse' if you do.
    Yet it is illegal not to make your kids obey the commands you must issue as the state's unpaid slave deliverer.
    Welcome to the revolution.

  • Cathy L||

    Yet it is illegal not to make your kids obey the commands you must issue as the state's unpaid slave deliverer.

    Lol, try again, they can withdraw their kids from public schools.

    I wonder why they don't.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Because there's more to it than just pulling them out. The parents are still under the thumb of the state and have legal burdens that they may or may not be able to fulfill to the satisfaction of enforcers.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Perhaps libertarians should follow Rand Paul's lead and insist on lie detectors for the dissidents, scofflaws, and troublemakers.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    So you agree the state should be able to threaten parents with jail time over this?

  • JesseAz||

    Like Obama did for his staff? Can even fund that fact in the Times. But good ole ignorant author chooses his ignorance. And Obama did it without employees openly admitting to subversion.

  • Echospinner||

    I like the irony in that. And he is a guy with a high level science based education.

  • TheVillaEscape3||

    nice website

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Students are not allowed to have more than 3 unexcused absences or excessive tardies. The 4th unexcused absence rises to the level of a crime and as the parent or guardian you can be prosecuted and charged with a crime.
    "Nearly one out of every four teachers in San Diego County miss 10 or more school days per year, a threshold that triggers [the chronically absent] label," the San Diego Union-Tribune found in 2016.I think I see the problem.
  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I see the problem with not having an editor and being in too much of a hurry to proofread.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Shucks, Reason is crawling with editors.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Too bad my proof reader orphan was on other duties this morning.

  • Mickey Rat||

    If everyone is an editor, then no one is.

  • JesseAz||

    Booker is an editor named Spartacus.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    According to the propaganda I've read, Kamala Harris is largely responsible for San Francisco's truancy program. Then, as AG, she pushed it on CA as a whole.

  • Michael Cook||

    Actually, colonial America and European nations had the best outlet for disruptive or inattentive/absent juveniles who were wasting their time in schools that ever was. They would drag the problem child down to the docks and find an outgoing sailing ship, preferably a whaler.

    Years later, the parents might hear from their offspring again, or not. Read "Captains Courageous" by Kipling for the flavor of the experience.

    Now the girls, if they stubbornly refused to do all types of domestic or handicraft work that ineducable for-whatever-reason women were expected to do had a more limited choice, but it also involved gravitating towards the docks.

  • DiegoF||

    That sounds like an excellent book. I will give it a look--especially since Wikipedia says, apparently accurately, that 1994's Cabin Boy was one movie adaptation.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    That's the highest praise to Kipling I've ever seen.

  • Cathy L||

    Wow, what a terrible problem that could be 100% solved by parents withdrawing their children from prison, which they are able to do.

    But then they wouldn't get the free warehousing of their chattels.

  • Les||

    This is a simplistic position. There are a variety of situations in which parents want their kids to go to school, but the kids refuse (mostly because school sucks). Jailing the parents, or threatening them with jail, is a terrible way to "solve" the problem.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    "free"

    And Cathy agrees that the solution is comply or jail time.

    Were you also a fan of creating the Obama Youth they tried?

  • eyeroller||

    Schools are not offered as a nice service, but instead mandated as day-jails, and if a parent doesn't play along, then the parent goes to a real jail.

    This is so messed up that I don't even know how to comment.

  • Cathy L||

    The messed up part is that parents send their kids there at all.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They're already paying for it.

  • sarcasmic||

    When you have neither the coin for private school nor the time for home school, what else is there to do?

    And don't say "Don't have kids" because that's a dodge.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Don't have... Young'ins?

  • DiegoF||

    Actually she may have a bit of a point. There are countries where you have to enroll your kids in government schools; this is not one of them, which takes quite a bit of the edge off any oppressiveness that may be associated with them. Of course, the mere fact that government runs these schools--never mind the fact that we all have to pay for them--does distort the education market something fierce. But the fact remains that anyone can send their kids to private schools.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Anyone may, but not everyone can.
    Particularly given the restrictions imposed on both parents and non-public-school educators along with the economic hit of paying already for the public schools.

  • sarcasmic||

    My property taxes are pushing $400 a month. That would really help in paying for a non-public education.

  • Cathy L||

    It's not a dodge. Don't send your kid to prison because you're poor and selfish.

  • sarcasmic||

    Accidents happen to the best of us.

  • sarcasmic||

    There is a lot of middle ground between poor and able to afford a private school. I looked into it around here and the tuition was more than the median family income. If make less than six figures, your kid is going to public schools. At least around here.

  • Cathy L||

    Is that supposed to be a good reason for you to make some innocent kid suffer through public school?

    Homeschooling is free.

  • Alcibiades||

    Parenting problem and one for the parents and the school to address.
    If ours skip school I expect the school to deal with them and then they'll be a follow-up at home.

  • Shirley Knott||

    And what will you do when you take your kids out of school for family reasons of whatever sort and find yourself up against the school's disapproval? Backed by the power of the state?

  • Alcibiades||

    Could pull them out of school tomorrow and find other arrangements with no repercussions at all, their school's approval or disapproval being completely irrelevant.

  • lap83||

    "When children miss school they are more likely to become victims of gang crime or fall into gang activity."

    Throw parents in jail! It's for the children!

  • lap83||

    I'm guessing most truant cases happen in grades where the kids are old enough to work and/or don't need to be babysat at all. So here is a thought....make high school voluntary. The whole "But who will watch the children" excuse falls apart when they are legally employable

  • perlchpr||

    They might be legally employable, but with a $15 minimum wage, there probably isn't much they're worth hiring for.

  • Michael Cook||

    Here is how modern society works. Kids are forced to be in school, but educators long ago swore off any serious attempts at inculcating either social discipline, self discipline, or work ethic in the youth. Long ago in our land, all that was imagined to be the whole point of education. Also knowledge should be for its own sake, not a ticket to a job.

    Absent doing anything much to instill character-building values or at least habits in the children, the schools equip them with a lot of fashionable cultural pap, particularly about how many rights they possess, the most crucial of which is the right not to be annoyed by anyone.

    So students understandably get bored. The boys stumble on dazed by drugs that don't just tamp down hyper activity, but pretty much all mental activity. The girls learn to think and act collectively (socialistically) in everything and go on to college, where they rule the roost and do they!

    A lot of students drop out. They end up being "homeless" which means urban campers who often have entitlement checks popping monthly into accounts here or there, but who do not desire to spend any of that on housing, utilities, insurance. etc. Mainly they want to do heroin and booze in public, eat fast food and throw the greasy bags everywhere, smoke Marlboros and weed, and leave condoms and syringes on the lawns. They also do a lot of crime, but blue city politicians hide that as best they can by ordering city cops to just ignore most of it.

  • Alcibiades||

    Educational outcomes have little to do with money expended either by parents or schools and almost everything to do with cultural attitudes towards education and parenting.

    When Vietnamese refugees came to the US with nothing within a generation thier kids were being accepted on scholarships by Berkeley and other Ivy League schools.
    According to sociological dogma this isn't supposed to happen and when when one sociologist did some investigating to see what was going on the conclusion was summed up by "these people work harder and longer than anyone I've ever encountered". If Berkeley and Harvard were to admit purely on intellectual merit you'd be staring at a sea of Asian faces on their campuses.

  • SQRLSY One||

    "The girls learn to think and act collectively (socialistically) in everything and go on to college, where they rule the roost and do they!"

    Well yes! This is simply because women of the female-type persuasion have a monopoly on camel toe, world wide! WHERE is Government Almighty and its anti-trust, anti-monopoly powers, when we really-REALLY need these powers?!?!

    The world-wide strangle-hold on camel-toe supplies needs to be broken, and sooner rather than later! Would Bernie Sanders PLEASE cum to our rescue here?!?!?

  • perlchpr||

    The boys stumble on dazed by drugs that don't just tamp down hyper activity, but pretty much all mental activity.

    Is this a reference to ADD meds?

    Because, as someone with ADHD, who takes meds for it, I have to report that I do not find that to be the case at all. Taking the meds does precisely the opposite, and allows me to concentrate on things for more than 5 seconds at a time.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Just write an excuse note for your child and then deal with your kid.

    Putting parents in jail, just costs the family more time and money and still does not impact the kid.

    This is an attempt to force parents to make their kids go to school, which is like punishing the truant kid's siblings for being not being truant.

    Expel the excessively truant kids and concentrate on the kids that want to be in school.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Since public schools refuse to actually teach kids and give them the skills they need to be successful, close down all public schools except one for troubled kids and shrink school taxes to nearly zero or zero. Let parents use vouchers for private school or pay themselves. Charities will pop up for poor but smart kids to attend private schools.

    End student loans for college or gut them by 90%+. Let kids work during summers and save up or work through college.

  • Rat on a train||

    Just write an excuse note for your child and then deal with your kid.
    Will that work in California? Can they reject your excuse? I've heard some places are like that.

  • Alcibiades||

    Will that work in California? Can they reject your excuse? I've heard some places are like that.

    We don't live in CA (thank God) and I guess they could require a physicians's note or letter of confirmation. I'm sure it varies with the school, some school administrators and teachers are probably unofficially glad certain of their students don't show up for class very often.
    If you want to know how hard it is to fire a teacher in CA just google "Yvette Felarca".

    Also I believe DC schools are currently under investigation by the FBI since the beginning of the year for graduating students that basically almost never showed up for school plus a host of other shenanigans.

  • Rat on a train||

    California Education Code 48205 lists excusable absences. My child's school accepts any note from a parent as an excused absence, even if it is for vacation.

  • ||

    Fuck the State. Just lie to them every time. It's not a crime to write a fake sick note.

  • Michael Cook||

    We had a girl in our class of 1965 who never, and I mean never, missed a day of school, K-12. Not one day. At the 2015 class reunion it turned out she had just retired as a Captain in Chicago Police force.

  • Michael Cook||

    Just show up, I tell ya!

  • Michael Cook||

    Those 50-yr high school reunions are eye-openers. Another girl, well, she was a very pretty girl back in 1964, but also known for emotional instability leading to extreme sexuality, like in cars in the school parking lot between periods (5 minutes!)

    By 1966 I had heard that she had gotten evangelical religion pretty seriously, but was also pumping out babies at a fast clip because that was what they did in that church.

    By 1985 her kids were almost out of the house and she herself was in college.

    By 1995 she was a lawyer. She presented at the 30th reunion--well, imagine Marie Osmond in 1995 in a slim phase only better looking to begin with. Better dressed, too. By 2005, looks unchanged in a decade, but now a partner in law firm.

    At the 50th in 2015, now a senior partner, she finally looks like a slim Marie Osmond in 1995.

    Life. Go figure. Make something of it, if you are young why doncha….

  • majil||

    Two things ,
    Home School . It does not isolate your children like in the "old days ".
    and say "so what and who cares ? " when cops are shot in the face.

  • Olga||

    If you send your children to a school (public or private) having them miss a lot of days puts them behind. If they are sick, then not much you can do. However, vacation can be done in the Summer, at Christmas and there are a lot of holidays throughout the year. Outside of funerals, weddings, family reunions and religious holidays that are not also public holidays not much reason to take children out of school for a trip.

    In DC, a lot of students had a high truancy rate. When they surveyed to parents to ask, why. They found that often poor parents did not have the money for bus or train fare every day. So now DC students get a DC One card and during the school year Monday through Friday, they ride public transit for free. So rather than punish parents, they helped fix a problem. DC public schools have a lot of problems, but at least they approached that problem correctly.

    I doubt that parents taking children out of school for family reasons is a huge problem, but if they have high absenteeism, it is probably something else that won't be fixed by threatening parents.

  • DaveSs||

    Vacation time is March, September, October

    Crowds are smaller and the weather is actually conducive to being active outdoors.

    I don't do vacation when dew points are likely to be > 65F.
    I also don't vacation when daytime temps frequently exceed 85F, regardless of humidity.

  • Alan@.4||

    Seems like money is the driving factor. That noted, who gets the money, which is to say who spends it, how and where?

  • mondo_cane||

    Any time questionable things occur, follow the money.

    ""One of the many benefits that come with improved attendance is increased school funding through the Average Daily Attendance funding from the state," the letter notes.

    As the California Legislative Analyst's Office points out, "the department uses attendance data to allocate state funding for various programs," and accordingly requires school districts to report attendance three times per year. If enough warm bodies are on hand, the schools get a full take of the money. If not… Well, an "increase in the number of students who were chronically absent cost the district $45 million in state revenue that year," The74, an education news site, reported of the LA Unified School District in 2017. "During the 2009-2010 term, traditional public schools in San Diego County lost out on at least $102 million in state funding because of absences," KPBS noted in 2011.

    This is a very unhealthy education system. As if we all don't know that.

  • macsnafu||

    This is nuts. Seriously. Talk about criminalizing non-criminal offenses.

  • GoatOnABoat||

    Der Kommissar's in town, oh oh

  • majil||

    Home school . ( I am a past School Board Member and volunteer at my son's school ) Both sides have education so fucked up as being beyond redemption .

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